Jordan Larson-Burbach was elated in the moments after she and her U.S. teammates had just swept No. 1 Brazil in the world championships.
But she wasn’t so focused on what just happened as she was about what might happen next. The stunning and decisive victory puts the United States in position to win its first FIVB world title. The Americans will play the winner of the China-Italy semifinal match for the gold medal in Milan Sunday, and the final will be broadcast on Universal Sports at 2 p.m. ET.
“We’re not finished yet,” Larson-Burbach, an outside hitter, said in an interview with Universal Sports shortly after the 25-18, 29-27, 25-20 victory against Brazil.
Team USA has never won a world title in women’s volleyball, although it has claimed two silver medals in 1967 and 2002. If the Americans play Italy in the final, it will mark a repeat of the 2002 world championship gold-medal match, when Italy beat the United States in five sets.
As much as Team USA hopes to redeem itself against Italy for the world crown after being swept by the Italians earlier this week, the Americans have to be proud of their win against Brazil. The Brazilians have won the last two Olympic crowns (beating Team USA for gold in both Beijing and London) and were silver medalists to Russia in the last two world championships.
The Americans, which had lost to Brazil on Oct. 5 after winning eight consecutive matches, entered this tournament ranked second in the world and wanted to send a message to their Brazilian rivals. With Rio de Janeiro hosting the Olympic Games less than two years from now, Team USA wanted to make sure it could give the future Olympic hosts a challenge.
“Obviously, we have a lot of history with Brazil,” said Larson-Burbach, who scored six points in the third set and finished the day with 15 kills. “We really wanted to take it to them. It was just relentless by us.”
After winning the first set, the Brazilians took leads of 5-1 and 8-2 in the second set. But the Americans rallied.
“We committed to fight for every point,” said Larson-Burbach, a 2012 Olympian. “We let off a little bit in the second set … but that’s what Team USA’s all about: fighting for every point.”
Team USA dominated the third set, leading by as many as seven points. By the second technical timeout, the Americans had a 16-9 advantage. Brazil did not give up easily as it took Team USA three match points to win (Larson-Burbach scored the game-winning point) but it was pretty clear from the beginning of the third set that the Americans were en route to the final.
“It is always an honor to share the court with the Brazilian team,” U.S. coach Karch Kiraly said. “They are a legendary team having won the last two Olympic gold medals. They have won so many tournaments and they are very well coached by Ze Roberto. We love to compete against the best that is out there. Tonight we had a good plan and we executed it. We have a lot of work still to be done.”
Amy Rosewater is a freelance writer and editor for TeamUSA.org. She has covered five Olympic Games and her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today.